Popular hammock styles include the spreader-bar hammock, naval hammock, travel hammock as well as the aforementioned Mayan and Venezuelan (Jungle) hammocks. While they all share the common features of having two suspension points and a sling for the user to lie in, each has its own sets of advantages and disadvantages.
Naval hammocks get their name from their use in the navy. They are usually made from strong canvas sheets or thick cotton. These heavy-duty hammocks are designed to be durable and robust, able to withstand the deteriorating effects of use on an ocean vessel. However, because of the thick fabric they are made from, they do not breathe well and can be much more uncomfortable than the other forms of hammocks that allow air to flow to the user easily. Many sailors have complained that the lack of breathability combined with the cramped and muggy conditions aboard a ship make for a miserable time, however despite these drawbacks, most would agree they work better than cots.
The spreader-bar hammock is a common sight in many patios and backyards and is easily identified by two bars at both ends of the hammock spreading open the panel. Instead of a cocooning effect, the use of spreader bars creates a structure more suited for casual use which is why it is a common form of permanent outdoor furniture. However, the spreader bars causes the hammock to be more unstable and can often results in the hammock flipping and sending the user falling to the ground. It is also considered less comfortable than hammocks that do not use spreaders. These forms of hammocks are not very portable since the spreader bars are heavy and cumbersome, often restricting their use to the backyard.
In the United States, spreader-bars are often found on rope hammocks, though a spreader bar can be added to any style of hammock. The origin of the rope hammock can be attributed to South Carolina, where this style is very common. Rope hammocks were created as an improvement over the canvas hammocks popular amongst sailors. Rope hammocks addressed many of the issues that naval hammocks had – namely the rough texture, the hot fabric and the cramped space inside. Rope hammocks were designed to be breathable, but without sacrificing the durability of the canvas material by using heavy cotton rope in a double-latch weave, where the ropes would be woven in such a way that each individual rope pulls against its neighbor to produce a lattice-like design.
The modern Mayan hammocks are made from cotton, silk or nylon string woven into a strong and breathable net. Even with the use of modern materials, they are still handmade and have changed little. Often made in a variety of colorful designs, these hammocks are considered some of the most comfortable hammocks available. Mayan hammocks can be judged by the craftsmanship and the quality of materials. A well made Mayan hammock could well be considered one of the most comfortable hammocks available.
Venezuelan Jungle hammocks are generally made of synthetic fabrics today such as nylon or polyester. They have benefited greatly from advances in modern textiles, using waterproof synthetics for the rainfly, and lightweight mosquito netting. The Jungle hammocks are inline hammocks, designed for the occupant to sleep along the length of the hammock, rather than the diagonal lay that other styles recommend. These hammocks are complete shelters with a design that keeps out water as well as unwanted insect visitors.
In India, infants and toddlers sleep in a hammock with both ends hanging from a single point on the ceiling. This hammock is made from a sheet of Sari, a traditional female garb in Southeast Asia. The Sari hammocks are hung so that the child can lie widthwise, rather than lengthwise like most hammocks. Research now has shown that hammocks may have positive health benefits for young children and specially designed baby hammocks have risen in popularity.
Travel or Parachute hammocks have become popular lately among the environmentally conscious hikers and backpackers. Made with a durable sheet of nylon fabric, they are lightweight, comfortable and have a reduced impact on the environment compared to traditional tent shelters. Some come with an attached mosquito net and storage pockets. Numerous attachments and accessories exist such as rain tarps and mosquito netting that make the parachute hammock an incredibly versatile sleep system for a wide variety of situations.
Hammocks are not only limited to soft materials like nylon or silk. As long as it remains a hanging bed, suspended by cords on both ends, almost anything can be made into a hammock. In Southeast Asia, not only are canvas and rope hammocks popular, people also make hammocks out of a single length of a large bamboo. The bamboo is split many times lengthwise and then woven together to form a solid hammock that looks similar to a small, suspended rowboat. In a similar vein, some patios are now sporting suspended beds, traditional firm beds suspended from the corners to form a hanging bed.